Should pharmacists be given prescription powers?

Pharmacists would be able to prescribe pain medication, asthma inhalers and medicines for hypertension and diabetes under a plan put forward by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA).

The move comes as the 60-day dispensing legislation takes effect on 1 September – a change that has upset pharmacists but which is estimated to save six million Australians up to $180 a year for each medicine.

In a paper, the PGA argues that the practice of pharmacists prescribing simple medications is common in other countries, and could go a long way towards easing the burden on GPs here.

Professor Trent Twomey, PGA national president, says it shows the urgent need to enable pharmacists to work to their full abilities.

“Pharmacists doing more not only benefits patients, it also takes pressure off our health system and benefits the economy not just now but for future generations,” he says.

“Treatment for many non-urgent presentations to emergency departments are within the scope of practice of pharmacists and can easily be dealt with at a community pharmacy.

“This frees up emergency beds and waiting times to see a GP who can focus on complex and complicated health conditions.”

The PGA paper was prepared in support of the federal government’s Strengthening Medicare Taskforce Report, which looked at ways to increase the capacity of the healthcare system and ensure more Australians can access suitable healthcare.

That report identified a need to move some health services away from overworked GPs, especially since the average out-of-pocket cost for a doctor’s visit has now reached $42.55 and that only 52 per cent of people are ‘always bulk-billed’ at their GP.

There was an 8.1 per cent point drop in the overall rate of GP bulk-billing in the past financial year, from 88.3 per cent down to 80.2 per cent of services, which represents the lowest point in a decade.

But the plan to expand pharmacists’ role is not without its detractors, with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) currently running the ‘You deserve more’ campaign aimed at convincing Aussies this is the wrong plan.

Professor Steve Robson, AMA president, says patients deserve more than trials that threaten safety, fragment care and “undermine Australia’s world-class health system”. 

“Governments should be investing in evidence-based solutions to improve access to general practice and affordability of medicines,” he says.  

“Patients deserve access to the full range of treatments and holistic doctor-led care, rather than being treated as a customer at a counter. They deserve the care of someone who has the qualifications to properly diagnose them, who can take the time to ensure they get the best health outcomes.”

“Allowing pharmacists to unilaterally prescribe medicines has the real potential to harm patients and turns on its head the time-honoured principles of separating prescribing and dispensing to prevent conflicts of interest.”

Would you support pharmacists being granted prescription powers? Or should that be left to trained doctors? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Also read: 60-day dispensing rules could lead to more than 600 pharmacy closures

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. Why not ? and further, allow them to perform complicated surgery as well. This is the perfect
    way to circumvent the doctor shortage. Australia could be the envy of the world with our
    novel innovation in Health Care!

  2. I can’t see a problem for your regular pharacist to prescribe medications that you are currently taking. They know your medication history and it would be such a bonuse when wait times for doctor’s appointments are getting much longer.

    I don’t think it would be appropriate for a pharmacist who didn’t know you, unless it was for something very simple and obviously needed.

  3. If the plan is to allow the pharmacists to prescribe for pain, asthma, hypertension and diabetes as well as medications that have been prescribed long term, I can see no problems with them dispensing these. From long experience not all doctors do anything more than give you repeat prescriptions without any further check or follow up. Sitting in the clinic waiting rooms for longer periods of time just to get prescriptions is a time waster for doctors. As with anything associated with drugs, precautions should be followed by the pharmacists.

  4. A little bit of back story before addressing the question.
    I have recently been watching a show called Painkillers on Netflix as I an interested in the role of pharmacists in the growing dependence on medications in society at large. The big chemist stores are filled to the brim with supplements and other health products and I find myself wondering whether we really need them or is it just an easy solution pitch for many health issues that can be dealt with by living a healthier lifestyle. Anyway, to the point of this comment.
    I DO have concerns that pharmacists would have a conflict of interest if they are able to prescribe drugs. I don’t believe for one second that there wouldn’t be a temptation to over prescribe meds to increase profit. The pharmacy network is after all like any other business, it must make a profit and there is no limit to it. As I heard recently, Big Pharma is not interested in healing people as there is no money in creating healthy individuals. Doctors issuing two months of medications at a time, instead of one per month, makes sense for the patients but NOT for the retailer. There have already been cries from pharmacists of them not being able to make enough profit to stay afloat…really?

- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -